Computing with flowers

Inkjet ink worth more than champagne

Apparently, the ink in your inkjet printer is seven times more expensive than Dom Perignon, by volume. According to a story in the Chicago Sun-Times:

“I remember how someone once put it,” said Tricia Judge, editorial director of Imaging Spectrum magazine, a printing industry journal.

“Pound for pound, forget gold, forget diamonds. There is nothing more valuable on Earth than an inkjet cartridge.”

If the ink were gasoline, it would cost you $175,000 to fill your gas tank.

The story goes on to note something rather funny that’s happening: The backlash against the inkjet-printer industrial complex. Ever wonder why such a wonderfully high-quality inkjet printer can be bought for 99 bucks? It’s a loss leader. The printer companies lose money on the printers — but make money hand over first with the cartridges, which cost less than $3 to make, and often sell for ten times that. Various mom-and-pop shops have begun to sell “refilled” cartridges for about 1/4 the price of a new one, which has prompted a David-and-Goliath battle — with the big printer companies hurling lawsuits all over the place to protect their lucrative business. Lexmark recently won an injunction to prevent anyone else from making cartridges that work in their printers.

What’s more, it turns out that “empty” printer cartridges may not be empty after all. When your printer says it’s out of ink, it may still be up to 38% full, according to some recent studies. Nice.

(Thanks to The Shifted Librarian for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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